Falling in love with Romania during a volunteer mission, Marc Areny from Perpignan settled there a few years ago while developing solutions for retrofitting thermal cars and storing energy. This trailer, which he delivered to the city of Odessa to supply electricity to a workshop, offices and accommodation, represents his background and his convictions very well.
They know him
Many pioneers of electric mobility in France have already met or heard of Marc Areny. Before tackling Dacias, he had converted a 1985 Porsche 944 bought second-hand for 2,500 euros in 2013. In France, retrofit specialists know him: ” For example, we provided elements to e-Néo for the realization of its Buggy, and to Retrofuture for the conversion of its Peugeot 504 coupé, and it also seems good to me for the Triumph Spitfire. We are also in contact with Lormauto, Design Solutions, LR Performance, etc. ».
Change of course in Romania: “ After a dozen individual projects, and without going to the series, we left aside the conversion of classic cars a little, to devote ourselves instead to Motorsport. I got a little tired fighting for approvals. I don’t have this concern for vehicles converted for racing ».
Now wishing to reserve himself for projects that lead more easily and serenely, he retrofitted Land Rover Defenders and Porsches (911 and 964) for a partner: “ There we did most of the work, with the finishing done by our partner himself. ».
« In 2017, I was asked to make an electric buggy to test at the Aïcha des Gazelles rally. The way was paved in particular by Jazmin Grace Grimaldi, the daughter of the Prince of Monaco, and Kiera Chaplin, the granddaughter of the legendary actor. I had already thought at the time about a power supply by solar panels “recalls Marc Areny.
« We did not continue with the rally, but I stayed with my idea of a photovoltaic trailer, sized to power 5 electric cars in the conditions of this event. She served at the Bucharest stage for l’EcoGP. We took part in the slalom “, he continues.
« I knew Sergey Velchev, the founding director of EcoFactor based in Odessa, Ukraine. He was the one who repaired Rafael de Mestre’s Tesla Model S after his accident. I called Sergey to tell him about our trailer. He was in Britain, but he flew the next day to join me. Together we brought her to Odessa “, he explains.
« Where I am, in Pitesti, northwest of Bucharest, we are far from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The country is 300 km as the crow flies or 500 km by road. We just see French soldiers passing by with equipment. On the other hand, the closer you get to the border, the more Romanians are affected, worried, because they have friends or family in Ukraine. “says Marc Areny.
This concern is what makes people move, out of solidarity. And this word, solidarity », has been very present for a long time in the vocabulary of our interviewee. He mobilized a precious photovoltaic trailer to supply electricity to housing and business premises in Odessa, a city of around one million inhabitants: “ Sergey warned me that it is not without risk. A bomb could fall on it, I know, and I assume. It is the demonstrator of a solution that we intend to rent and sell. I leave it available all the time it takes. After all, she is thus experienced very concretely. ».
Marc Areny will no doubt always remember his arrival there: “There was no light. In the night, we could hear the sounds of generators everywhere. The fuel has been zero-rated to facilitate its use”.
The mobile unit was installed in a large workshop, near a charging station for electric vehicles, and attached to an apartment bar: ” Solar panels are not used. The trailer is mainly used as a buffer, and to stabilize the current. It is recharged when the network is present and the demand for electricity is not too high. For example early in the morning ».
In the event of a cut? ” When there is no more network, it is the trailer which supplies the electricity. And when the batteries are discharged, an external thermal generator powers them. Before Christmas, the national electricity grid was present only a third of the time ».
Remotely, Marc Areny is able to give us information on the real-time use of his solution: ” I have a Starlink connection with the system. Graphs with alarm show me network losses. There, this Thursday, January 12, 2023 at 11:10 a.m., the charge level is 54%, and the trailer provides a power of 20 kW. Only for lighting, but also workshop tools. For heating, Ukrainians try to manage differently. In the workshop, for example, a wood-burning stove with ventilation has been installed. ».
The energy capacity of the photovoltaic trailer is 200 kWh: “ For this, we have recovered a pack and a half lithium-ion from damaged Tesla Model S. We have reconfigured the assembly for 48 V. It can supply a power of 50 kW three-phase. For this, we have a 10 kVA Victron inverter for each of the 3 phases of the battery, and a 25 kVA Fronius for the additional panels. ».
Additional photovoltaic panels? So basically, these are the 9 that we see on the trailer: 3 in the center, and 3 others on each side, mounted on sliding side drawers? ” Yes. It is possible to add 60 additional 400 W panels, to be deployed around, for example to power an event. We thus have a veritable micro-power plant. We regularly receive requests that we did not expect ».
To bring a touch of ecology to an event? ” Exactly, no, not necessarily. It is more for practical reasons or imperatives. Thus for the shooting of feature films, where there are significant constraints on external noise. Also, in some locations, bringing in a tanker for fuel for large generators can be problematic. It’s a bit the same for the concerts that are given on the Danube delta and by the sea. ».
Soon in France
« We also have demand in France for similar projects. This is why we are settling in Lyon-Villeurbanne, in the Bel Air Industrie area where there are already quite a few startups. Under the Kitoffgrif brand, we will develop solutions for energy storage. I will also do a bit of Motorsport, but no classic retrofit », teaches us Marc Areny.
Another Perpignan pioneer of electromobility, Robert Morandeira is preparing a new event in his city for the Pentecost weekend, at the end of next May. In association with the Automobile Club du Roussillon, Free wheel will tell the story of mobility for the second consecutive year. Bob66 will take care of the part on the car of the future, evoking in particular hydrogen, autonomous vehicles, and retrofitting.
An opportunity to exhibit the photovoltaic trailer? ” I don’t think so, because she will probably still be very useful in Odessa. On the other hand, I am planning a prototype circuit that has not yet been made, or our Volkswagen Golf 6 converted for hill climbing. This Golf 6 should help a 15 year old to continue his way in the competition. He distinguished himself in Formula 4 on the Paul-Ricard circuit and made a splash at the Winfield driving school ».
« Among the other projects, we are going to support a manufacturer in the retrofit of 2 vehicles. The first will be a classic model, and the second a boosted machine. For the car, W-Autosport should also be there. This workshop is known for having developed the Fiat Multipla 1,000 hp for Youtubers from the Vilebrequin channel. Turbo magazine, from M6, should devote a report to it next September “, reveals Marc Areny.
« We plan to release a prototype in the style of the Beltoise BT01 this summer. We want to demonstrate that with upcycling we can achieve high performance with relatively little means. In particular, we will reuse parts from Tesla. As soon as the car is ready, we will bring it back to France “, he concludes
Automobile Propre and I would like to thank Marc Areny very much for his availability.
Which electric cars can tow?
When we started imagining the Marc Areny interview, we hadn’t considered this Ukraine-oriented angle. He imposed himself during the discussion. Initially as the opinion of a Frenchman on the perception in Romania of the conflict with Russia. It is sometimes during the telephone or live interview that all the richness of a subject appears. This was the case here.
This momentum taken by Marc Areny is remarkable. It shows that it is possible to develop new solutions which can also be applied through solidarity in real situations.
Be that as it may, this conflict in Ukraine is very distressing. It is at least the climate emergency that should mobilize every nation in the world. But also the health and life of citizens. Peace should be obvious today. There is no more time for war. A lot of leading minds would need to be retrofitted. And there it is not about electric motorization.